Lt Gen S. S. Mehta
SIXTYSEVEN years into Independence and despite four wars, including a humiliating defeat in 1962; matched by a consummate victory over Pakistan in 1971; the Kargil intrusion, the Mumbai terrorist attack, scores of insurgent and internal security movements, India remains cocooned in a yawning void between promise and delivery. If one thought India has had enough time to put the building blocks for a sound national security policy into place, one would be disappointed. On this critical issue, we remain vague and incongruous. On the contrary, it would seem that there is an inexplicable disconnect in policy makers’ minds about the linkages between National Security and National Defence.
National security is an inclusive concept. It demands political savvy, economic security, soft and hard power, focused development and growth of human and material resources and public understanding and support. In contrast, national defence has a narrower meaning. Defence relates to sovereignty, territorial integrity, capability to contain internal disorder, respond to man-made and natural calamities, and have the synergised political will and broad-spectrum capability to undertake multifarious international obligations; even the odd intervention if that becomes necessary in supreme national interest.
Security vs Defence
Security and defence are therefore not interchangeable. Security incorporates defence. Collectively they stand for National Security and both must co-exist. Kautilya in his seminal treatise on statecraft — Arthashastra, warned us around 2,000 years ago that national security challenges to a state demand of it both expertise and force development to successfully face the threats that it may be subjected to. He identified four such threats: The external threat externally abetted, the external threat internally abetted, the internal threat externally abetted and the internal threat internally abetted. Today we face all of them in varying degrees. Yet, a Comprehensive National Security Policy has not been articulated. Even if it does exist in some form, its application on ground is incoherent if not headless. It appears after each episodic disaster we face as a nation that we have learnt no lessons from the past, nor is there continuity of responses that could mitigate the sufferings that follow from such events.